The largest military landing in history took place in Normandy on June 6, 1944 when the Allies landed in Normandy to liberate France from German occupation. The Normandy beaches were chosen by planners because they lay within range of air cover, and were less heavily defended. Monuments, museums, bunkers and cemeteries are a living commemoration to the Battle of Normandy. The most important things to see are the artificial harbour at Arromanches, the German gun battery at Longues-sur-Mer, the American Military Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach and the Pointe du Hoc.
Bayeux is a perfect base from which to tour the beaches. The tiny town is built around the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame and is home to the 200-foot long Bayeux Tapestry, a world famous masterpiece whose cartoon like "scenes" depict the epic of William the Conqueror's expedition to England.
The Caen Memorial is the quintessential starting place for an understanding of the events that took place leading to D-Day in the summer of 1944. The exhibition is not only a museum of battlefields but of the process of war and peace. The unique Memorial continues its historic journey through the 20th century, from the Second World War to the world at the time of the Cold War.
A pilgrimage for art lovers, this picturesque village on the banks of the Seine was the home of French Impressionist painter Claude Monet. Visitors can wander through Monet's cheery spacious house and the exuberant gardens, which were the inspiration of his famous waterlily series. The American Art Museum of Giverny will give you a global understanding of the work of the American artists that came to France at the end of 19th century to study and work on painting.
A thriving industrial and commercial center and the third largest port in France, Rouen is steeped in history. Both William the Conqueror and Joan of Arc died in the town. Victor Hugo called it "the city of a hundred spires". Rouen is home to many museums as well as the Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame, immortalized by French Impressionist Claude Monet.
As the oldest seaside resort, Dieppe has something for everyone. Its history is explained in the castle museum. The Benedictine Palace & Museum, home of the famous Benedictine liqueur, is Fécamp's main claim to fame. Also, don't miss its picturesque marina. A short drive down the coast lies Etretat, nestled between striking white cliffs.
Driving along the "Flowered Coast", three picture perfect towns stand out, The glamorous resort town of Deuville, home to the rich and famous, is a thriving vacation spot of luxury hotels, casinos, racetracks, golf courses and polo grounds. Its twin city, Trouville, separated from Deauville by the Touques river, is a more sedate fishing village. Both towns boast wide sandy beaches.
The tiny seaport of Honfleur huddles on the Normandy coast, awash with colourful café terraces and tall stone houses, clustered along the quaysides. The port is bustling with little fishing boats and yachts of all kinds. Considered the birthplace of Impressionism, Monet and Baudelaire are but two of the many artists who spend time in this beautiful 11th century town.
The 8th century Abbey of Mont-St-Michel is perched precariously on a 264-foot high rocky islet connected to the mainland by a causeway. Surrounded by over half a mile of massive walls and reached by a steep climb up winding streets, it remains one of the greatest sightseeing attractions in Europe and the second most visited place in France after the Eiffel Tower. The Mont-St Michel is also known for its tides, the highest on the continent, which race towards the isle at the speed of "galloping horses".
A discovery of Normandy would be incomplete without a mention of this region's passion for horses. Tourists are welcome to attend any of the numerous horse shows and competitions and visit the many horse breeding estates, of which the Haras du Pin, or the "Versailles of horses", is the most exceptional. Alencon's Fine Arts and Lace Museum presents a major collection of French and European lace from the 17th to the 20th century. Bagnoles de l'Orne, a premier spa centre, is also worth a visit.